FODDER: Groundhog Day for Nevada hoop fans | NevadaAppeal.com

FODDER: Groundhog Day for Nevada hoop fans

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … The end to the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball season on Thursday was eerily similar to their first 31 games this year. We saw a mini version of the Pack’s entire season in the 66-60 loss to New Mexico State. The Pack played well at times and had every opportunity to win the game. But, like in many of their 19 losses this year, the final few minutes were a frantic, frustrating, cover-your-eyes train wreck. This young Pack team simply never learned how to close out a game. Wild shots, missed free throws, turnovers, silly fouls. And, in the end, another loss. That’s what young teams do. It’s what this team did all season long.

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The good news is that many of the problems that plagued this year’s team will go away next year. This will be an experienced Wolf Pack team next year. A deep team. Everybody is coming back. That hasn’t happened in a very long time at Nevada. The growing pains of this season will vanish simply with the passage of time. But a few hundred hours in the gym practicing free throws wouldn’t hurt either.

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Why is the national media so upset at Ohio State for suspending head football coach Jim Tressel just two games? Can you say overreaction, boys and girls? Yes, the guilty Ohio State players were suspended for five games. And, yes, Tressel got a slap on the wrist two-game suspension. But, don’t forget, it was the players who did the dirty deed. All Tressel did was ignore an e-mail. Coaches get all sorts of e-mails, letters, phone calls, text messages all the time. If they reacted to all of them they wouldn’t have any time to coach. Yes, Tressel made a mistake by not telling his university immediately of the possible wrongdoing by his athletes. But he’s paying a price. In addition to missing the first two games, he has to pay a $250,000 fine. Should Ohio State fire him? Of course not. If you fire Tressel then you need to kick the five players – one of them was starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor – off the team for selling the items in the first place. That was never going to happen in either case. Why? Well, in the wise words of Charlie Sheen, “Duh? Winning!”

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The Big East officials who made a joke out of the final seconds of Wednesday’s St. John’s-Rutgers men’s basketball game voluntarily withdrew from the tournament on Thursday. Yeah, right. There was nothing voluntary about it. Forget Tressel. It’s those officials who should have been fired. How do you not see the St. John’s player first travel and then step out of bounds with 1.7 seconds to go? Everybody in the gym and watching on television saw it. Come to think of it, maybe those officials didn’t withdraw from the tournament after all. Maybe they mysteriously disappeared. Rutgers, after all, is in New Jersey.

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Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson obviously weren’t ready for the NBA this year. One of them, after all, is always in the NBA D-League this year and the other is chained to the Portland Trail Blazers bench. Both of them could have benefited greatly by another season with the Nevada Wolf Pack. And the Wolf Pack would be headed to the NCAA Tournament right now if Babbitt and Johnson were on the team. So it was a lose-lose situation for everybody involved.

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The new WAC basketball tournament format is a mess. Asking a team to win four games in four days is just cruel. Why put a college athlete through that? The NBA wouldn’t even ask its teams to do that. Also, why place a conference tournament in a neutral site hundreds of miles away from its nearest member school? You can do that if you are the Pac-10, ACC, SEC, Big East and Big Ten. But this is the WAC, a collection of schools that struggle to draw fans to their own arenas on campus. Nothing about this tournament makes sense. Too many teams. Too many byes. Too many games. Two fans in the stands.

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The WAC should have a six-team tournament. The top two teams get a one-game bye. It’s a three-day tournament. That’s it. Short, quick, simple. Exciting. Every shot, every dribble is meaningful. And play it at the home of the league regular season champion so some fans can actually fill some seats.

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The NFL should be ashamed of itself. The average citizen in this country cannot afford to buy a ticket to a game anymore. The country is falling apart economically. And what do we have in the NFL? A bunch of millionaires arguing over how billions of dollars should be divided.